Choosing your Instrument: Acoustic or Digital Piano?

Here in the Houston Metroplex, we are lucky to have such a supportive arts and music community. The market for used acoustic pianos is relatively good, and piano lessons are something that most parents seek out for their children at some point in their childhood. But in choosing between a digital and acoustic piano, several factors come into play. Follow this easy guide to see which instrument will work best for you and your family.

Do you have the space required for a full acoustic piano? They are heavy, difficult to move, and take up a good amount of space. An upright piano would be more easily placed in a smaller room than a baby grand/grand piano, which requires a large space to hold the instrument. A digital piano is much smaller and more portable than an acoustic piano, making it a good choice for a beginner. They can keep the instrument in their bedroom/living room, without it taking up too much space.

How important is the quality of sound and feel to you as a piano student? Acoustic pianos will always be the preferred choice of piano teachers across the country, just for their authenticity of sound in the hammer action and the subsequent string vibrations after pressing a key. This is the heart of the piano. Digital pianos have certainly come a long way in their software, but they will still just be electric instruments. There is no hammer/string action and no vibrations within the piano. The tone quality and sound in higher tier digital pianos comes very close to sounding like the real thing, but the action in playing doesn’t quite feel the same.

Can you afford the maintenance necessary for an acoustic piano? Keeping an acoustic piano regularly tuned is very important for the life of the instrument. According to the Piano Technician’s Guild, if you purchase a new acoustic piano, it should be tuned two to four times the first year, and one to two times annually after that. If you purchase a used acoustic piano, you should tune it a few months after it has been moved into its permanent spot in your home to give it time to settle into its climate/environment, and annually from thereafter. Check out this guide to help determine your piano’s tuning schedule from the manufacturers. Digital pianos require no tuning, therefore are a significantly more cost-effective choice regarding maintenance.

Are you comfortable with the melodious and “not so melodious” music coming from your budding pianist? All piano students make mistakes. Lots of them. This is all a part of learning and mastering the instrument! If you feel that volume controls are something that would be important for you as a parent/student, then make sure to look into a digital piano. All digital pianos have a convenient volume control and headphone jack that allows for students to practice quietly and comfortably in their home without causing major dissonance. Most digital pianos have a recording function as well, so the student is able to record and then listen to their practice sessions.

How much of an investment are you willing to make for yourself/your child? Acoustic pianos are expensive. New, they can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000. You can probably find a good used acoustic piano anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000. Acoustic pianos become heirloom instruments, passed down to family members, and can last upwards of 100+ years! Imagine the gift of music you will be giving not just your child, but your family for generations to come. My family has three heirloom pianos, two of which are over 130 years old! Digital pianos are more affordable, ranging in price from $800 to $3,000. There are several digital pianos in my Amazon Music Store which I personally recommend.

Whichever piano you decide to purchase, make sure it is the best choice for your unique needs as a family.

Sound Off: Do you have an heirloom piano in your family? What are your favorite things about a digital piano? What other reasons can you think of to go with an acoustic or digital piano?


Four Reasons Music Lessons Benefit the Child Athlete

“Music lessons are not for my son, he is an athlete.”

“My daughter isn’t artsy enough to play music.”

“We are a football family, we aren’t musically-inclined.”

These are all phrases that come to mind when I talk about the benefits of learning and playing an instrument to parents of athletic children.  Athletics are essential to the physical and mental growth of children, but what can music lessons do for the athletic child? Let’s take a look:

Learning to play an instrument can increase the athletic child’s dedication to practice, commitment to learning and overcoming obstacles, and build confidence. The piano, for instance, has the challenges of learning to read music, remembering symbols, utilizing fine motor skills in the hands, wrists, and fingers, and controlling all of those on a keyboard of 88-keys! Imagine the mental and physical stimulation your child receives when taking piano lessons.  Transferring these into their chosen sport can positively influence their training.

Learning to play a wind instrument (clarinet, flute, saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, tuba, trombone, oboe, and others) can greatly enhance lung capacity and breath control. The connection here was recently discussed by Aaron Perdue, a professional flutist and endurance runner, on NPR and American Public Media’s Performance Today. There are many endurance athletes (triathletes, swimmers, runners, etc.) who are also wind instrument players, noting the benefits of conditioning, disciplined practice, and the ability to manipulate their bodies to achieve desired results as the greatest links between endurance athletics and playing an instrument.

Learning to play an instrument can help make the athletic child more patient and persistent to achieve desired results. Long-term goals are something that the athletic child is all too familiar. The long distance runner slowly but surely increases their distances over long periods of time to eventually reach their running goal. Patience and the ability to see past current challenges is essential in training and conditioning. Just as learning to play an instrument takes time to master, such is the time to become a good athlete.

Learning an instrument provides the athletic child an outlet for personal expression/emotional release.  Athletic children may be surrounded by a results-only environment for the majority of their day, without a dedicated way to express their emotions. Music lessons provide a way for these children to get in touch with their creative and expressive side, in a safe and controlled space. A study was recently published noting the positive effects of music lessons on attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control. By exposing your athletic child to  music lessons, you are training the brain to be emotionally mature.

Sound off: Are you an athlete? Did you take music lessons when you were younger? What was your experience being an athlete and musician?


Winter Recital 2015 | College Station Piano/Flute/Voice Teacher

Encore Music Studio put on a great show this weekend! Each student performed one or two musical selections, and worked through their nerves to perform for family, friends, and the residents at Bluebonnet Place, a local assisted living facility for the elderly.

Pieces included Ode to Joy, Sleigh Ride, Grandpa’s Clock, Kum-Ba-Yah, Away in a Manger, Silent Night, The Can-Can, Air from Overture in D Major, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Schumann’s Little Piece, Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, and Raindrop Prelude by Chopin.

Students each achieved their Encore performance credit for a successful recital. I look forward to their continued success in the months to come!


Five Signs Your Child is Ready for Piano Lessons

This is one of the most frequent questions I receive from parents of potential students. Children ideally begin piano when they are in elementary school, but depending on the child, that can be early elementary school or later. See if your child is exhibiting the following signs to help guide your decision to enroll them in private piano lessons.

Fine Motor Dexterity: Learning to play the piano is like doing a workout for your hands, fingers, and wrists. Generally, if your child can write with a pencil, use a pair of scissors, or hold a spoon or fork well during meals they are physically ready to take on piano lessons.

Focused Cognitive and Attention Skills: Attention and cognition are interrelated when it comes to learning to play the piano. Holding attention for 20-30 minutes on a specific task will allow the child to utilize thought processes to learn various concepts at the piano. Cognition directly impacts learning, and the piano will help develop your child’s thinking skills.

Alphabet/Counting Skills: If your child can recite the alphabet and count to ten easily, then this is a sign they are ready for piano lessons. Learning to read music is like learning a new language. The musical staff is the sentence, and the notes are the letters. A musical phrase is like a putting together a word. Keeping a beat and rhythmic accuracy is like using math. The interrelationship between the alphabet and counting is critical to the success of a beginner piano student.

Respecting Teachers: Children who have been in a school setting, with teachers, teacher’s aides, and other adults in counseling/advising roles have an advantage at the piano. They understand that the teacher is a person to help guide them in their studies, advise them to work out new concepts and techniques, encourage them to commit to their learning, and respectfully challenge them in a judgement-free zone.

Teachers are the keys to doors of discovery. It is their mission to equip their students with the skills and desire to open these doors.

Interest in Music: Music is all around us. Children are especially attuned to picking up rhythms, melodies, and feeling the urge to sing and dance. Tap into this natural desire and cultivate their musical potential with piano lessons. By setting small, attainable,  but challenging goals in lessons, the confidence boost in achievement is a propeller into more lofty goals. Including music in the students’ favorite style is just as important as following a method book. Take advantage of your child’s enthusiasm and let them ignite their passion for music!

Sound Off: What have you found to be a sign you or your child was ready for lessons? Comment below!